After two days of driving we had finally arrived in the beautiful town of Banff. Unfortunately it was only to spend the night, but I knew I would be back anyway. We were in the Rockies and these natural wonders were waiting to be explored by us. The weather hadn’t improved from the last two days, but in the distance it sort of looked promising. Unfortunately our first few stops around Banff were still a bit cloudy. Even though we didn’t see the surrounding mountains, lake Minnewanka and Two Jack lake were beautiful.
The red chairs had a view of the lake with lots of clouds in the background. We actually had to put our raincoats on top to keep our jeans dry, but it was still a moment worthy of a photo.
You can see the snowy mountains in the background through the clouds. It is hard to imagine that somewhere under this lake a whole town is hidden. They flooded it to expand Minnewanka.
At Two Jack lake the mountains were reflecting in the still water. It was still a bit chilly this morning, but it seemed like the clouds were slowly lifting off the mountains. On our drive out we saw a group of elk in the meadow. Excited to see some wildlife we all got out of the bus to take some pictures. When we got back on a grumpy driver pulled over next to the bus. He told off our tour guide for letting us out. This guy obviously had nothing better to do with his life. The elk were miles away and neither us or the elk were in danger with us standing on the side of the road.
Our next destination was on the Bow Valley parkway, the scenic road that runs pretty much alongside the highway. Our hope was to see some more wildlife and I was staring out into the woods until my eyes closed, tired of focussing on nothing. Although we didn’t see any exciting animals, we did see an amazing canyon.
Johnston Canyon was a touristy place, with a shop/coffee shack and all. The path to the lower falls was paved and very easy to walk. The most difficulty must have come from all the other tourists on the narrow track. People were walking slowly or taking photos and it was like we were in a traffic jam, where one car passes the other and then the other passes the one again. It was well worth the effort. This is my favourite canyon of the trip. The water was wild and its colour stunning. The path took you right along the edge of the water, sometimes over wooden bridges right along the cliff walls. At the end you could go through a tunnel to see the lower waterfall up close and take a shower in its mist.
The further we got from Banff, the better the weather got. Our lunch stop was in the Yoho national park at the gorgeous Emerald lake. What a beauty! The lake got better from every angle. We found a wooden platform where we had a quick picnic lunch. There were canoes on the lake, forest and snowcapped mountains. It was the typical Canadian picture.
There was also a loop walk around the lake. I was in desperate need of some exercise after sitting on the bus all the time, so I gave it a try. Different people told me different times as to how long the full walk would take, so I put some extra power in my stride. I power walked, skipped and hopped over tree roots, rocks and puddles of mud. Every five minutes I was surprised by another breath-taking view. I thought I had hit the halfway point, but beyond that I suddenly saw someone else from our group. She claimed I wasn’t nearly halfway yet. Since there was no signage I decided to turn around and continue with her. Slowly we picked up other members of our group who were as surprised as I was that we weren’t going to make it around. Even though we kept a fast pace, we didn’t get back to the bus in time. Good thing our guide was quite relaxed about it.
On the way out we still had time to stop at the natural bridge, a pretty impressive rock formation, mainly because of the force with which the water comes rushing through it. At this point nothing could disappoint me anymore. It seemed like every stop got better and better. We had a blue sky and it actually got hot. In Lake Louise we got away from the crowds a bit on a hike up to lake Agnes. We had three hours here. It was our first decent hike and I must say it was pretty challenging in the beginning. Then I got a good pace going and just kept going. Slowly the group started to separate, but each made it to the top in their own time.
At lake Agnes I was pretty tired and sweaty from the walk up. I gladly put my jacket back on, because the temperature had dropped some degrees. The scenery was once again amazing and I totally understand why they built a tea house here. I could have used some tea myself, but it was too early in the season and the house was still closed. So with some time to spare I kept walking to the Little Beehive.
Could it get even better? Yes! From this walk we had an amazing view of Lake Louise and the surrounding mountains. From above you could see the incredible blue colour that the lake is famous for. It was harder to see from the ground. We were so high! We looked out over the valley that the road runs through. All that was left now was the way back down. After working hard to get up, the way back down went ridiculously quick. We did have a good pace going though. When we all met at the bottom I felt satisfied. At our hostel we finished the day with a delicious meal and a drink in the bar afterwards. I am starting to like these Rockies.